DEAR HARRIETTE: My children are in their teen years. Some of their friends have their own debit and credit cards, but I don’t trust my children with that yet. Instead, I allow them to use my credit card information whenever they would like to order something online, like clothing or a concert ticket.

Recently, I’ve been catching fraudulent activity on my credit cards. These charges happen about every other month and are incredibly frustrating. I have to call my bank, file the claim and live on cash for seven to 10 business days.

Whenever this happens, my children insist it is not them using my card for unauthorized activity. I’ve believed them in the past, but this is now my third card this year. I don’t want to imply that I don’t trust my teenagers, but it may be time to have them live without the luxury of a credit card. My husband thinks we should open debit accounts for them, and I don’t like that idea. They’ll still need money from somewhere! Should I just open the debit cards and tell my children to get jobs? I feel like I am being driven up the wall with all of this fraudulent activity and possible lying. – No More Plastic, Rochester, New York

DEAR NO MORE PLASTIC: You should make an agreement with your husband that you both can uphold. For now, that should definitely include no more use of your credit or debit cards. And, yes, I believe that teens should work to be able to pay for their pleasures. That could mean having a job at the mall or in the neighborhood, or working at home for an allowance. Until they are responsible enough to have their own cards, have them use cash.

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DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a single mother. My son is in kindergarten and begged me for a year to get him a pet. I held off in the hopes that he would forget or lose interest. When I suggested getting a fish, he hated the idea and said that he wanted a hamster. Exhausted from this argument, I bought him a tiny hamster. Ten days ago, he came up to me with the hamster’s ball. It was popped open, and the hamster was missing. My son asked me where Buddy went, and I told him Buddy is visiting his family for a little while. As my son slept, I searched and searched for the hamster, but it is completely gone. It’s been lost for 10 days now, and I doubt it is alive.

My son has been asking less frequently about the hamster, which leaves me with a dilemma: Do I tell my son that his hamster ran away and has died, or do I continue to tell him white lies until he forgets about his pet? – Bye-Bye, Hamster, Jackson, Mississippi

DEAR BYE-BYE, HAMSTER: Stop lying. Children must learn about life and death, too. Children who have pets naturally learn about the cycle of life. If your son mentions the hamster again, tell him what you suspect. You could also simply get a new one and introduce your son to his new pet. The time will come to talk about death.

— Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to [email protected] or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.